The Positive Limitations of iPad

I’ve recently made the jump from laptop to tablet as my main ‘home computer’. It sounds dramatic but, for my usage, all this really boils down to is changing my modus operandi from a multi-window to single/duel window way of working.

The transition has been pretty straightforward, largely thanks to my slightly over-obsessive desire to only use apps that feature on my phone, tablet and laptop, but also because I’ve moved most of my working files to the cloud.

The main driver behind this switch was screen resolution. My MacBook Air has a low (by Apple standards) resolution 13″ screen and whilst hooking it up to a secondary monitor was ok, I found it constantly jarring to have my main workstation NOT have a Retina capable screen. Sure I could’ve got a MacBook (Pro?) but I don’t need another laptop and, having tried one for a while, the split screen capabilities of iOS brought the iPad Pro into play (plus it’s a big enough screen to watch movies on without feeling like you are compromising too much).

Of course I am writing this from an Apple viewpoint, which just so happens to match the latest adverts for the iPad Pro (What’s a computer?). I’m not sure if such a move would be possible in other ecosystems, Windows, Linux, Android, Chrome OS?? No idea.

One thing which has struck me is how little time I spend on the iPad once I’ve done whatever I need to do. I think this is more psychological than anything, as the tasks I’m doing don’t vary between devices. If I normally use a web browser rather than an app, for example, then it doesn’t matter if I’m on my laptop or my iPad given that I have pretty much the same apps installed in both platforms.

But the fact I have to switch apps completely seems to have altered the way I work. I know I could’ve achieved the same effect by using full-screen apps on my laptop but they never felt right to me. Why would I limit myself to one app at a time when I can have multiple apps running, even if I can only see partial windows of some of them, hidden behind other windows?

Well whatever my brain is up to it seems to be working. I’m gaining speed on the iPad – most of my slowness is fighting muscle memory – but on the whole I’m getting the same stuff done with what feels like fewer distractions.

If you are considering making a similar switch be aware that I did a lot of research and even adjusted some of my working practices before making up my mind. A lot of the changes I adopted also brought benefits to my iPhone usage as well. Yes, I’m further locked in to the Apple ecosystem which is both a good and bad thing, but as I see it there are only a few viable options and most of them boil down to the same decision; trust ‘someone else’ with your files and data (be that Apple, Google, Microsoft or a 3rd party like Dropbox), or manage them all yourself (which means setting up and maintaining a web server and handling the security issues, connection issues, and whatever else crops up).

A couple of tips; I’m much stricter about notifications on my iPad (I have an Apple Watch and iPhone to buzz at me if I need them to), and I use Do Not Disturb a lot more than I have in the past, toggling it on and off when I need to get something done. Without either of these I think the distractions would be too intrusive on the iPad (again not sure why it’s massively different from MacBook usage but it just feels like it is).

Overall I’m happy with the switch, and I’m finding a few additional benefits (as mentioned, the larger retina screen is handy as a second screen on those ‘two sportsball events happening at the same time’ moments. I’m using the Apple Smart Keyboard which on the whole I’d recommend as I don’t mind the way the keys feel, but I do miss having a backlit keyboard so that’s next on the list of ‘upgrades’.

Now I just need to figure out how to back up a website over FTP using the iPad and I can consign the MacBook to the back of the cupboard.